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I grew up in Colorado at the foot of the Rocky Mountains, then lived in Denmark and traveled throughout Europe before coming back to Colorado. I have two adult sons, whom I cherish. I started my writing career as a columnist and investigative reporter and eventually became the first woman editor of two different papers. Along the way, my team and I won numerous state and several national awards, including the National Journalism Award for Public Service. In 2011, I was awarded the Keeper of the Flame Lifetime Achievement Award for Journalism. Now I write historical romance and contemporary romantic suspense.


Seductive Musings

Wednesday, February 03, 2016

Paris — The Victory Tour

Two days from now, I’ll be getting ready to head to the airport for three weeks in France. No one is more surprised by this than I. This trip is a gift from a friend, and it means so very much to me. Here’s why.

Back in 2014, before the world crumbled, I went to France, Denmark and Spain to visit my younger son, who was teaching French just south of Paris, to visit family and friends in Denmark, and to meet with readers in Paris and Madrid.

As part of the trip, Benjamin and I visited the battlefield of Verdun, where half a million men died over the 10-month course of the battle. We stood at the bunker of Lt. Col. Emile Driant on Feb. 21, 2014, the 98th anniversary of the beginning of the battle. (We are all history nerds in my family.)

Benjamin said to me, "I wish we could be here on the 100th anniversary."

Feeling confident about the direction of my life, I replied. “We’ll come back in 2016 and stand here together again. I promise.”

It was a dream trip — all my wishes coming true at once. I came home filled with inspiration from hours spent in the matchless museums of Paris. I felt like I was on top of the world. I’d achieved my dream of living off my writing income and was doing well enough to spend two whole months abroad. Then, on April 21, I was diagnosed with breast cancer.

The world crumbled.

No one who has not fought cancer or been close beside a loved on who is fighting cancer can comprehend how this terrible disease shreds your life. It strips away any illusion that the future is yours to plan. It brings you face to face with your own mortality, strips away your sense of femininity, leaves you in the hands of medical personnel who far too often do not give a shit. It also empties your bank account and lands you in debt, even when you have health insurance. You experience a level of sickness and physical and emotional pain that is off the scale.

I went through three surgeries in two months — bilateral mastectomies, a parathyroidectomy to remove a benign parathyroid tumor discovered during tests related to my cancer diagnosis, and the installation of a port in my chest. After that it was 12 weeks of chemo. I've never felt so awful in my life. This was followed by 25 daily sessions of radiation, one of the most demeaning experiences of my life. The staff at the cancer center were dickweeds, and that's me being generous.

After all of this, I felt my life was shredded. It was left in pieces. Those wonderful memories of Paris, where I got to spend three precious days with BOTH of my sons, were now just photographs. All the inspiration I'd felt had been cut, poisoned, and radiated out of me. I didn’t think I’d ever write again. To make it all more stressful, I now had debt and very little income after not writing for a year.

I surprised myself in 2015, penning three novels — one full-length (Seduction Game) and two short novels (Soul Deep and Dead By Midnight, the I-Team finale). When I couldn’t pay bills, friends and family stepped up to help. I was hit in June by massive depression over my cancer battle and what it had done to my life, some of which can never be fixed. I got through that, too.

Still, financial recovery is slow in coming. I knew there was precisely ZERO chance that I'd be able to keep my promise about the 100th anniversary of the Battle of Verdun. It was going to be yet another thing that cancer stole from me.

I mentioned this at a lunch with some friends. One of them shocked me into teary silence by telling me that I was going because she was going to pay for it. I sat there at the table with tears running down my face and immediately messaged Benjamin, who is teaching English in France again.

His response to the news I was coming: “WHAT???? HOW?????”

Now the plane tickets are bought. The train tickets to Verdun are reserved. We’ve got a room at our favorite hotel. I will be able to keep my promise. Cancer has not stolen this from me.

Benjamin has put together an itinerary of other things he wants to do, little side trips that he wants to share specifically with me. We’re doing the “Band of Brothers” tour of Bastogne (Belgium), where the Battle of the Bulge was fought in World War II. We’ve watched that series three times together, I think. We’ll also be visiting the British Channel coast, driving to the Somme to visit that battlefield, as well as visiting Amiens, etc.

On my last day in Paris, I’ll be getting together with readers and friends for some kind of dinner or some such. Somewhere in there, I also hope to have lunch with the staff of J’ai Lu, my French publisher.

This feels like Paris: The Victory Tour. I get to go back, stand in the city that inspired me so very much, and shake my fist at all the shit of 2014. I am alive. I might be scarred and battered and emotionally raw at times, but I am alive. I can still appreciate beauty, and I can still create it. And I can keep a promise I made to Benjamin.

That’s what this trip means to me.

To my friend who made this possible: I don’t even know how to say thank you, but you can expect something special from Verdun when I get back.

This will put me a little behind on my writing schedule, but I hope that refilling the well will help me move forward with more inspiration and fresh ideas when I get back.

To keep up with my adventures, follow me on Facebook or watch this blog. I will share photos, just like I did last time.


Pat F said...

Victory tour is a very appropriate name for this! It's the start of your life again! ❤️

Linda said...

Good friends are a true blessing! May this trip bring you joy!

Linda said...

Good friends are a true blessing! May this trip bring you joy!

I agree the Name is awesome! I am A Survivor Sister, and when I was free and clear, I went to Australia! I am so excited for you. Have a great time, and look forward, not backward.

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—the character of Chaucer in
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